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Challenging Reads for 4th & 5th Graders - NEW

Recommended books from the J (Juvenile) and Y (Junior High) Fiction collections. Most Y Fiction titles are suitable for grades 6-8, but the Y books listed here are appropriate for many 4th and 5th graders. Find more suggestions for avid 4th and 5th grade readers on our list of Classics.

Children’s Fiction (J)

Balliett Chasing Vermeer    (When seemingly unrelated and strange events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, eleven-year-olds Petra and Calder combine their talents to solve an international art scandal. Also in Y Fiction)
Beasley Circus Mirandus    (When he realizes that his grandfather's stories of an enchanted circus are true, Micah Tuttle sets out to find the mysterious Circus Mirandus--and to use its magic to save his grandfather's life)
Behar Lucky Broken Girl    (In the 1960s, fifth-grader Ruthie, a Cuban-Jewish immigrant, must rely on books, art, her family, and friends in a multicultural neighborhood when an accident puts her in a body cast.)
Brown Wild Robot    (When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? Most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz's only hope is to learn from the island's hostile animal inhabitants until one day, the robot's mysterious past comes back to haunt her.)
Collins Gregor the Overlander    (When eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister are pulled into a strange underground world, they trigger an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy.)
Curtis The Watsons Go to Birmingham    (The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963. Also in Y Fiction)
Fitzhugh Harriet the Spy    (Eleven-year-old Harriet keeps notes on her classmates and neighbors in a secret notebook, but when some of the students read the notebook, they seek revenge.)
Hashimi One Half from the East    (In modern-day Afghanistan, 10-year-old Obayda is a bacha posh, a girl dressed as a boy. She has more freedom than she would as a girl, and makes a good friend of another bacha posh, but must find a way to remain free when she returns to life as a girl.)
Henkes Protecting Marie    (Relates twelve-year-old Fanny's love-hate relationship with her father, a temperamental artist, who has given Fanny a new dog. Also in Y Paperback)
Holm Our Only May Amelia    (As the only girl in a Finnish American family of seven brothers, May Amelia Jackson resents being expected to act like a lady while growing up in Washington state in 1899.)
Ibbotson Island of the Aunts    (As they get older, several sisters decide that they must kidnap children and bring them to their secluded island home to help with the work of caring for an assortment of unusual sea creatures.)
Meloy Wildwood    (When her baby brother is kidnapped by crows, seventh-grader Prue McKeel ventures into the forbidden Impassable Wilderness--a dangerous and magical forest in the middle of Portland, Oregon.)
Peck A Long Way From Chicago    (A boy recounts his annual summer trips to rural Illinois with his sister during the Great Depression to visit their larger-than-life grandmother.)
Prineas The Magic Thief    (A young thief is drawn into a life of magic and adventure after picking the pocket of the powerful wizard Nevery Flinglas, who has returned from exile to attempt to reverse the troubling decline of magic in Wellmet City.)
Reynolds As Brave As You    (When Genie and his older brother spend their summer in the country with their grandparents, he learns a secret about his grandfather and what it means to be brave.)
Smith I, Lorelei    (In letters to her recently deceased cat Mud, eleven-year-old Lorelei chronicles the ups and downs of her sixth-grade year, during which her parents separate, she gets a part in the school play, and she becomes friends with the cutest boy in her grade.)
Taylor The Cay    (When the freighter on which they are traveling is torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II, an adolescent white boy, blinded by a blow on the head, and an old black man are stranded on a tiny Caribbean island where the boy acquires a new kind of vision, courage, and love from his old companion. Also in J Paperback.)

Junior High Fiction (Y)

Barnhill The Girl Who Drank the Moon    (An epic fantasy about a young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, who must unlock the powerful magic buried deep insider her.)
Blakemore The Firefly Code    (Mori and her friends live a normal life on Firefly Lane in Old Harmonie, a utopian community where every kid knows he or she is genetically engineered to be better and smarter, but when a strangely perfect new girl named Ilana moves in, the friends begin to question the only world they have ever known.)
Carter Forever, or a Long, Long Time    (Having shared so many foster homes that they are unable to trust that the family has adopted them will last, Flora and her brother, Julian, are assisted by their new mother on a journey to resolve the past in order to build their future.)
Choldenko Al Capone Does My Shirts    (A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards' families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister.)
Dowd London Eye Mystery    (When Ted and Kat's cousin Salim disappears from the London Eye ferris wheel, the two siblings must work together--Ted with his brain that is "wired differently" and impatient Kat--to try to solve the mystery of what happened to Salim. Also available in Y Paperback.)
Erdrich Birchbark House    (Omakayas, a seven-year-old Native American girl of the Ojibwa tribe, lives through the joys of summer and the perils of winter on an island in Lake Superior in 1847.)
Flanagan The Ruins of Gorlan    (When 15-year-old Will is rejected by battleschool, he becomes the reluctant apprentice to the mysterious Ranger Halt, and winds up protecting the kingdom from danger. )
Hiaasen Hoot    (Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy's attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site.)
Hunter Into the Wild    (For generations, four clans of wild cats have shared the forest. When their warrior code is threatened by mysterious deaths, a house cat named Rusty may turn out to be the bravest warrior of all.)
JACQUES Redwall     (When the peaceful life of ancient Redwall Abbey is shattered by the arrival of the evil rat Cluny and his villainous hordes, Matthias, a young mouse, determines to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior which, he is convinced, will help Redwall's inhabitants destroy the enemy. Also in Y paperback.)
L'Engle A Wrinkle in Time    (Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg's father, who has disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government.)
PAPERBACK McD Mars Evacuees    (Twelve-year-old Alice Dare is one of 300 seven-to sixteen-year-olds evacuated to Mars to attend school and train as soldiers, safe from the war with Earth's invading aliens, the Morrors. But when all of the adults and robots mysteriously disappear, the youths must survive on their own.)
O'Dell Island of the Blue Dolphins    (Left alone on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of California, a young Indian girl spends eighteen years, not only merely surviving through her enormous courage and self-reliance, but also finding a measure of happiness in her solitary life. Also in J Paperback)
Park A Single Shard    (Tree-ear, a thirteen-year-old orphan in medieval Korea, lives under a bridge in a potters' village, and longs to learn how to throw the delicate celadon ceramics himself.)
Snicket The Bad Beginning    (After the sudden death of their parents, the three Baudelaire children must depend on each other and their wits when it turns out that the distant relative who is appointed their guardian is determined to use any means necessary to get their fortune.)
STEWART The Mysterious Benedict Society    (After passing a series of mind-bending tests, four children are selected for a secret mission that requires them to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. Also in Y paperback.)
STEWART The Mysterious Benedict Society    (After passing a series of mind-bending tests, four children are selected for a secret mission that requires them to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. Also in Y paperback.)
Tolkien The Hobbit    (Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to share in an adventure from which he may never return. Also in J Fiction)
Ursu The Shadow Thieves    (After her cousin Zee arrives from England, thirteen-year-old Charlotte and he must set out to save humankind from denizens of the underworld, Nightmares, Death, Pain, and a really nasty guy named Phil.)
Venkatraman A Time to Dance    (In India, a girl who excels at Bharatanatyam dance refuses to give up after losing a leg in an accident.)
Whelan Homeless Bird    (When thirteen-year-old Koly enters into an ill-fated arranged marriage, she must either suffer a destiny dictated by India's tradition or find the courage to oppose it.)
White Belle Prater's Boy    (When Woodrow's mother suddenly disappears, he moves to his grandparents' home in a small Virginia town where he befriends his cousin and together they find the strength to face the terrible losses and fears in their lives.)

Nonfiction, Folktales & Poetry

Y 920 BO Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls    (Profiles sixteen high-achieving African Americans, including magician Richard Potter, concert singer Sissieretta Jones, and architect Paul R. Williams.)
Y921 Earhart Amelia Lost : the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart     (Tells the story of Amelia Earhart's life - as a child, a woman, and a pilot - and describes the search for her missing plane.)
Y910.453 HO Titanic: Voices from the Disaster    (In this award-winning book, critically acclaimed author Deborah Hopkinson weaves together the voices and stories of real TITANIC survivors and witnesses to the disaster.)
Y621.4 KA The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind    (In this memoir adapted for young readers, William Kamkwamba describes the drought that struck his tiny village in Malawi, his subsequent interest in science, and his idea to build a windmill. )
J 943 TU Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berline Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"    (World War II was over, and Berlin was in ruins. US Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen knew the children of the city were suffering. They were hungry and afraid. The young pilot wanted to help, but what could one man in one plane do?)
J 921 Woodson Brown Girl Dreaming    (Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse raised in South Carolina and New York.)
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Last Updated 9/17